Survival of the fittest. How brands need and must evolve to remain future proofed.

When it comes to the survival of brands, in today’s modern world, I subscribe to the philosophical perspective of organisational ecology. Maybe a little highbrow, but in essence this is an organisational perspective adapted from Charles Darwin. The man who dedicated his career to understanding the origins of life and the evolution of species. Which can be summarised with a powerful, factual and thought provoking hypothesis;

‘It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent but the ones most responsive to change.’

Organisations that follow this perspective, knowingly or otherwise are the organisations who create, innovate, take risks, and ultimately understand their consumer. All with the single-minded perspective to survive and to become future proofed.

The business world is littered with brand goliath’s, who chose to sit on top of their market leading thrones, happy in the knowledge that they are number one. Untouchable. Or so they thought.

Take Nokia, cast your mind back to the 3310 from the year 2000 – Nokia sold more than 130million of these handsets and started the phenomenon of texting. Fast forward to 2013 and they were swallowed up by the Microsoft Corporation. But why? They chose to ignore the signals from the market, they didn’t listen to their consumers and they stopped innovating. They didn’t evolve. Why change your business model or product portfolio when you’re top of the tree? This complacency became their downfall. A trait that seems prevalent in the mobile telecoms industry. RIM, the makers of Blackberry, sold 85 million handsets and believed that the qwerty keyboard was their USP, therefore shouldn’t be evolved. As reported by Times magazine;

“BlackBerry failed to realize that smartphones would evolve beyond mere communication devices to become full-fledged mobile entertainment hubs.”

The list of businesses who have headed (or who are heading) to the business archives are far reaching: BHS, JJB, American Apparel, HMV, Game, Ben Sherman, Woolworths, the list is endless.

But evolution and the willingness to evolve isn’t always that straight forward. Whether you’re a Multinational power house, SME’s or a start-up, you must consider how evolution and change is positioned within your organisation. Now, when I say innovation and evolution, I don’t mean this is mutually exclusive to launching a new ‘Product’. Evolution can mean an adaption of an existing service, or product, creation of new products and services, adaption to processes, structures, introduction of new procedures, a restructure anything that can help the organisation be more efficient and effective. Keeping those all-important shareholders happy.

What is key to the evolution of business is culture and leadership. They play a massive role in ensuring innovation and evolution can flourish. At Nike, we often used to say, ‘change is the only constant‘. One of Nike’s Maxim’s is to evolve immediately.’ There are many other examples where innovation and evolution are creating success and growth: Dyson, Tesla, Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft.

In summary, an organisation must make sure the infrastructure, resources and budgets are in places before evolution is possible. Ensuring that any changes are aligned to the overall business goals and objectives, and are answering a specific desire / need from their consumers. I’m not insinuating that evolution and innovation are mutually exclusive and are the holy grail to business survival. It is of course much more complex than this. However, a vital ingredient to long term sustainability and growth should be the desire and the ability to adapt.


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